Mental health and HIV/AIDS: the need for an integrated response

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Tremendous biomedical advancements in HIV prevention and treatment have led to aspirational efforts to end the HIV epidemic. However, this goal will not be achieved without addressing the significant mental health and substance use problems among people living with HIV (PLWH) and people vulnerable to acquiring HIV. These problems exacerbate the many social and economic barriers to accessing adequate and sustained healthcare, and are among the most challenging barriers to achieving the end of the HIV epidemic. Rates of mental health problems are higher among both people vulnerable to acquiring HIV and PLWH, compared with the general population. Mental health impairments increase risk for HIV acquisition and for negative health outcomes among PLWH at each step in the HIV care continuum. We have the necessary screening tools and efficacious treatments to treat mental health problems among people living with and at risk for HIV. However, we need to prioritize mental health treatment with appropriate resources to address the current mental health screening and treatment gaps. Integration of mental health screening and care into all HIV testing and treatment settings would not only strengthen HIV prevention and care outcomes, but it would additionally improve global access to mental healthcare.

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